Exiled dissident's assistant deported from Vietnam

© Agence France-Presse

Vietnam's prominent lawyer Nguyen Van Dai was sentenced to 15 years in jail, and his assistant Le Thu Ha (not pictured) was given nine years

Hanoi (AFP) - The exiled assistant of a prominent Vietnam dissident has been deported from the country after she tried to return home to see her family, sources told AFP Wednesday.

Le Thu Ha was jailed this year for "attempting to overthrow the state", but was quietly released from prison and put on a plane to Germany in June along with her former boss Nguyen Van Dai who was convicted on the same charge.

Ha -- not herself an active dissident -- and Dai were released under the condition that they would leave Vietnam and would not be permitted to return. 

On Tuesday evening, Ha arrived at Hanoi's Noi Bai airport and tried to enter the country before she was turned away by immigration officials and put on a plane to Thailand, Dai told AFP.  

"She herself made the decision to come back to Vietnam for her mother," he said from Germany, where Ha is expected to return. 

A second source who requested anonymity confirmed she was blocked from entering Vietnam. 

Dai said that after more than two years in a Vietnamese prison, Ha had a difficult time adjusting to life in Germany and often talked about coming home to see her elderly mother. 

"Because of pressure from security forces in jail she was under a bit of stress," Dai said. 

Vietnam's foreign ministry did not confirm Ha was deported, but said she had been allowed to travel to Germany initially for "humanitarian" reasons, spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang told AFP. 

The pair were arrested in 2015 and convicted in April along with four others connected to the Brotherhood for Democracy activist network.

They were accused of called for multi-party elections and carrying out human rights training. 

Dai was sentenced to 15 years in jail and Ha was given nine years.

A lawyer by training, Dai was a perennial thorn for authorities in the single-party state where all political parties apart from the ruling communist regime are banned. 

Vietnam routinely jails its critics, but it has waged a crackdown over the past two years since a conservative leadership took power. More than 50 have been jailed this year alone.

It is not uncommon for Vietnam to release political prisoners, but it is almost always done on the condition that they will leave the country.

Last month, blogger Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh known by her pen name "Mother Mushroom" was secretly released and sent to the United States with her young children and mother.